Saturday, November 15, 2008

Q&A with Master Huang Po

From The Zen Teaching of Huang Po:

Q: If 'there's never been a single thing', can we speak of phenomena as non-existent?
A: 'Non-existent' is just as wrong as its opposite. Bodhi means having no concept of existence or non-existence.

Q: What is the Buddha?
A: Your Mind is the Buddha. The Buddha is Mind. Mind and Buddha are indivisible. Therefore it is written: 'That which is Mind is the Buddha; if it is other than Mind, it is certainly other than Buddha.'

Q: If our own Mind is the Buddha, how did Bodhidharma transmit his doctrine when he came from India?
A: When he came from India, he transmitted only Mind-Buddha. He just pointed to the truth that the minds of all of you have from the very first been identical with the Buddha, and in no way separate from each other. That is why we call him our Patriarch. Whoever has an instant understanding of this truth suddenly transcends the whole hierarchy of saints and adepts belonging to any of the Three Vehicles. You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can ATTAIN to this oneness by various practices. [John Blofeld's Note: We cannot BECOME what we have always been; we ca only become intuitively aware of our original state, previously hidden from us by the clouds of maya.]

Q: If that is so, what Dharma do all the Buddhas teach when they manifest themselves in the world?
A: When all the Buddhas manifest themselves in the world, they proclaim nothing but the One Mind. Thus, Gautama Buddha silently transmitted to Mahakasyapa the doctrine that the One Mind, which is the substance of all things, is co-extensive with the Void and fills the entire world of phenomena. This is called the Law of All the Buddhas. Discuss it as you may, how can you even hope to approach the truth through words? Nor can it be perceived either subjectively or objectively. So full understanding can come to you only through an inexpressible mystery. The approach to it is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity. If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity. Those who seek the truth by means of intellect and learning only get further and further away from it. Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon al thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate. [Blofeld's Note: These word recall the admonition of so many mystics - Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Sufi - who have committed their experience to words. What Huang Po calls the total abandonment of HSIN - mind, thought, perceptions, concepts and the rest - implies the utter surrender of self insisted on by Sufi and Christian mystics, Indeed, in paragraph 28 he used the very words: 'LET THE SELF PERISH UTTERLY'> Such striking unanimity of expression by mystics widely separated in time and space can hardly be attributed to coincidence. No several persons entirely unacquainted with one another could produce such closely similar accounts of purely imaginary journeys. Hence one is led to suppose that what they describe is real. This seems to have been Aldous Huxley's view when he compiled that valuable work The Perennial Philosophy.]

Q: At this very moment, all sorts of erroneous thoughts are constantly flowing through our minds. How can you speak of our having none?
A: Error has no substance; it is entirely the product of your own thinking. If you know that Mind is the Buddha and that Mind is fundamentally without error, whenever thoughts arise, you will be fully convinced that THEY are responsible for errors. If you could prevent all conceptual movements of thought and still your thinking-processes, naturally there would be no error left in you. Therefore is it said: 'When thoughts arise, then do all things arise. When thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish.'

Q: At this moment, while erroneous thoughts are arising in my mind, where is the Buddha? [Blofeld's Note: Is the One Mind then no longer present in me?]
A: At this moment you are conscious of those erroneous thoughts. Well, your consciousness is the Buddha! Perhaps you can understand that, were you but free of these delusory mental processes, there would then be no 'Buddha'. Why so? Because when you allow a movement of your mind to result in a concept of the Buddha, you are bringing into existence an objective being capable of being Enlightened. Similarly, any concept of sentient beings in need of deliverance CREATES such beings as objects of your thoughts. All intellectual processes and movements of thought result from your concepts. [Blofeld's Note: Which bring the corresponding thought objects into existence.] If you were to refrain from conceptualizing altogether, where could the Buddha continue to exist? You are in the same predicament as Manjusri who, as soon as he permitted himself to conceive of the Buddha as an objective entity, was dwarfed and hemmed in on all sides by those two iron mountains.

Q: At the moment of Enlightenment, where is the Buddha?
A: Whence does your question proceed? Whence does your consciousness arise? When speech is silenced, all movements stilled, every sight and sound vanished - THEN is the Buddha's work of deliverance truly going forward! Then, where will you seek the Buddha? You cannot place a head upon your head, or lips upon your lips; rather, you should just refrain from every kind of dualistic distinction. [Blofeld's Note: Since we are the Buddha, to seek him elsewhere is to place a head upon our head.][My note: to seek the Buddha elsewhere is to ATTEMPT to place a head upon our head.] Hills are hills. Water is water. Monks are monks. Laymen are laymen. But these mountains, these rivers, the whole world itself, together with sun, moon and stars - not one of them exists outside your minds! The vast chiliocosm exists only within you, so where else can the various categories of phenomena possibly be found? Outside Mind, there is nothing. The green hills which everywhere meet your gaze and that void sky that you see glistening above the earth - not a hairsbreadth of any of them exists outside the concepts you have formed for yourself! So it is that every single sight and sound is but the Buddha's Eye of Wisdom. [Blofeld's Note: The Buddha's Eye of Wisdom commonly means the eye with which he perceives the true unity of all things. Huang Po, however, does not say 'perceived BY the Eye', but uses the phrase 'is the Eye', thereby identifying see-er and seen.]

Phenomena do not arise independently but rely upon environment. [Blofeld's Note: I.e. the mental environment created by us.] And it is their appearing as objects which necessitates all sorts of individualized knowledge. You may talk the whole day through, yet what has been said? You may listen from dawn till dusk, yet what will you have heard? Thus, though Gautama Buddha preached for forty-nine years, in truth no word was spoken. [Blofeld's Note: Words belong to the realm of flux and illusion. The truth is beyond words, a silent and profound experience. The Buddha spoke of relative means. Viewed absolutely, no word was spoken.]

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